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7.1.4 Portrait of Chilean sailor

Hand-colored image of non-caucasian young man with brimmed hat and long ringlets wearing a collared shirt with a neckerchief. This ninth plate daguerreotype is housed in a brass mat inside of a paper covered wooden case with an emerald green velvet liner.
Shew, William J., 1820-1903
circa 1852
Daguerreotype
Shew, William J. Portrait of a Chilean Sailor. Painting. Circa 1852. Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2017.68.149. https://art.nelson-atkins.org/objects/68600/portrait-of-chilean-sailor?ctx=3cc940c7-4e0b-4748-b551-848d6f568fbf&idx=17302.

You may have heard about or even been to Chinatown or Little Italy in San Francisco — beautiful and vibrant neighborhoods. But what is long gone is Chilecito, or Little Chile, which was a settlement of thousands of Chileans at the foot of Telegraph Hill. They had arrived in California at the very beginning of the Gold Rush. The Chilean port city Valparaiso is conveniently located for ships sailing to California, and as gold had been mined in Chile for centuries, a lot of people there were experienced miners and were excited to test their luck in the rich new gold fields. In the photo you see a young Chilean sailor who jumped ship in the San Francisco Bay to join the gold miners. Unfortunately, many Chileans — both at the mines and at their settlements — were viciously attacked by racist white miners. These attacks and other discrimination, such as the foreign miner's tax, caused many of the settlers to return to Chile.

At the start of the Gold Rush, thousands of people came from all over the world to California through the port of San Francisco seeking a fortune in the mines. After crossing the southern tip of South America, ships would typically stop in Valparaiso, Chile, and would often pick up Chilean sailors and passengers on the way to San Francisco. Once in San Francisco, thousands of sailors jumped ship and entered the city and the gold-mining world. Many Chileans had experience in gold mining in their home country, but in California they faced significant xenophobia, discrimination, and racist sentiment. The Chilecito settlement was attacked and robbed in 1849 by the Hounds, a xenophobic San Francisco gang. Discriminatory laws, such as the foreign miner’s tax, made it extremely difficult for foreigners to work in the city. In the end, many of the Chileans who found their way to San Francisco returned to their native country poorer than when they had left.